September 28, 2020

Utilities are Key Partners in Connecting Unserved Americans: UTC’s Riggs

Electric utilities empower broadband deployment and are ready and willing to serve if the need arises, UTC President and CEO Sheryl Riggs told a national audience last week.

With the coronavirus still raging across the country, forcing millions of workers and students home, more policymakers see electric utilities as key partners in bridging the digital divide, and more utilities are expressing an interest in doing so, she said.

Noting that utilities have already invested in sophisticated communications networks, Ms. Riggs said utilities are able to leverage their existing systems to provide different levels of broadband support.

“Because of these investments in fiber and other communications infrastructure, hundreds of utilities of all kinds are also leveraging these investments to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved communities,” Ms. Riggs said. “Numerous electric cooperative utilities have successfully participated in federal auction opportunities such as the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund II and others are awaiting the results from this year’s $20.4 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction as well.”

Ms. Riggs spoke at the Broadband Communities Virtual Summit Event last week. She discussed the emerging trends in the utility broadband area, including investor-owned utilities providing middle-mile services in unserved and underserved areas. She also highlighted opportunities for utilities to work together on broadband projects, such as is the case in Virginia, where Dominion Energy Virginia has reached a partnership to work with Prince George Electric Cooperative on broadband issues.

She urged the general public to become more aware of broadband options particularly in unserved and underserved areas. Electric utilities could be able to provide service if enough support exists, she said.

“Reach out to your local utility, become aware,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, raise awareness.”

Ms. Riggs’ presentation is archived here: https://bbcsummit.vfairs.com/en/

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utility Group: Court Should Stay FCC’s 6 GHz Rulemaking

A federal court should prevent new rules that would allow unlicensed devices to access the critically important 6 GHz spectrum band from going into effect until after it determines whether the decision to do so complies with existing law.

In a filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, UTC, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the American Public Power Association (APPA), and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) said that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) has yet to prove that its new rules will not harm existing 6 GHz users and therefore the rules should not go into effect.

The FCC’s “arguments are contradictory, illogical, and ignore the critical nature of Petitioners’ use of the 6 GHz band,” the groups said. “They assume their unsupported premise—that any interference with Petitioners’ use of the band will be insignificant—and then argue both that the risk of interference is too remote to warrant a stay because there is no indication that any interfering devices will be on the market in the near future, and that a stay will harm the public because the devices must be allowed on the market as soon as possible.”

At issue is the litigation against the FCC’s April 2020 6 GHz rules. UTC and the utility groups filed suit against the rules, and also asked the court to “stay” the order’s implementation until it determines whether the Commission acted unlawfully (Industry Intelligence, Sept. 14, 2020).

After the FCC urged the court not to prevent the ruling from going into effect, UTC and the utility groups said that the harm to existing users in the band is imminent if the Commission’s rule is implemented.

“Because no one, including the FCC, can predict when these devices will enter the market, the Intervenors’ criticism of the timing of the motions to stay is misplaced,” the groups said. “The risk of this seemingly unknown timing, coupled with the potential for catastrophic results, compelled the motions to stay.”

UTC anticipates that the court will act quickly on the stay requests; we will provide updates as developments occur.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Member News: ComEd Reminds Customers to Plan Ahead During National Preparedness Month

Extreme weather and natural disasters have become a more frequent occurrence in Illinois and around the country. ComEd reminds customers during National Preparedness Month in September to be prepared for severe weather and other emergencies, especially when they cause power outages.

The importance of being prepared was evident in August when a historic derecho brought a wave of destruction in a short period of time, causing severe and widespread damage. The storm pummeled the entire 11,000-square-mile ComEd region with hurricane force winds, 100 mile per hour gusts, 15 tornadoes including 13 in communities we serve, 4,300 lightning strokes and golf ball-sized hail. ComEd restored 540,000 customers within 24 hours, the fastest the company has restored more than 500,000 customers.

“The safety of our customers, communities and employees is always our top priority,” said Terry Donnelly, ComEd president and COO. “As we see extreme weather more frequently, being prepared is critical to keeping our customers and our families safe.”

To help customers plan and prepare for an emergency, ComEd offers the following tips:

  • Stay far away from storm-damaged electrical equipment, especially downed wires. Always assume downed wires are energized. Report a downed wire immediately by calling ComEd at 1-800-334-7661.
  • Keep a flashlight with fresh batteries on each floor of your home.
  • Identify an alternate location for you and/or your family in case of an extended power outage.
  • Customers who rely on electricity to keep medicine refrigerated or medical equipment running should develop a backup plan for these needs during a power outage.
  • If you own a backup generator, review the manufacturer’s instructions for its safe operation. Do not connect a generator directly to your home’s wiring. Never use a generator indoors or in any enclosed area.
  • Follow the advice of local emergency management officials.

For more information about preparing for a tornado, visit the ComEd Powering Lives Network here.

UTC Calendar of Events

Regional Meetings—All Virtual

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

Webinars

Committee/Division calls

  • Oct. 13: UtiliSite Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 13: Knowledge & Learning Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 15: Public Policy Division Call–For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • Oct. 15: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Oct. 16: Security, Risk, & Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 20: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Oct. 21: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart